What does an old World's Fair anniversary party have to do with theme parks, you ask? In a nutshell, everything. So many of the themes found at the fair are used in our favorite parks today: countries setting up pavilions showcasing their cultures, rides based on the history of mankind and what the future might hold, and delicious cultural foods and music. At the end of the night, a firework and fountain show set to music would occur. Sounds familiar, no?
Walt Disney was a huge proponent of the '64-65 fair, developing rides and technology still used today in some of the most beloved attractions at Disney parks. "It's a Small World" was developed for the fair's Pepsi pavilion. "Progressland" was a beloved attraction from the fair, which theme park fans now know as "Carousel of Progress." Some of the Dinosaur animatronics from the "Ford's Magic Skyway" attraction still can be seen on the Disneyland Railroad's Primeval World diorama. There are many more Disney contributions that found their way into the parks, and perhaps Disney World itself wouldn't exist had Walt decided to follow through with his idea of buying the World's Fair grounds.
The fair was not sanctioned by the Bureau of International Expositions, so it wasn't officially a "World's Fair," but that wasn't going to stop it. Robert Moses, a New York visionary and somewhat of a polarizing character, was the head of the corporation established to run the fair. Anyone who knows of Robert Moses, whether you like him or not, knows he got things done. Although the fair was not considered a financial success, it had a large effect on New York City's infrastructure. For such a big event, roads must be built, along with mass transportation options. The Flushing Meadows Corona Park was a tidal marsh before the '39-40 World's Fair, and was only finally able to be completely transformed into the park Moses envisioned for the '64-65 fair.
Not much of the fair remains at the park today. Some of the art pieces designed for the fair are still on display, such as the Unisphere, the fair's iconic globe that sat in the middle of the action. One of my favorites was the "The Rocket Thrower," a statue in the park of a man reaching for the stars, signifying man's exploration into space. The New York display building is now the Queens Museum, an art museum with an original large diorama of New York City from the fair still intact. It also has a wing dedicated to the fair's history with lots of memorabilia, pictures and videos on display. One interesting tidbit of information is that the New York building was a temporary home to the United Nations, before it moved to Manhattan in 1952.
Will a World's Fair ever come back to New York? It seems highly unlikely, due to the fact that both fairs in New York were not financially successful. I could only imagine the traffic. Though with the large amount of attendance this event received, it seems that the public is not only interested in the history but would embrace the new fair with open arms. I know I for one would love to see it. Until then, the event was an interesting showcase and I would recommend anyone interested in the fair to read up on it. I hope some of these photos help illustrate how amazing the fair must have been. We owe a lot of the joy we've experienced at theme parks to the fair.
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